Training for Mountaineering? How to do it right [Part 3]

Training for Mountaineering Training

[Part 3] – The base period


Last time, in [Part 2], I gave some insight into my tranition period and how I prepare for the base period.
Before that, I posted an introduction [Part 1] and listed some very useful tips that I wish I had known before I started training methodically.
Check it out if you haven’t already.



First off,  I won’t explain every scientific aspect of the training in its full depth, as it gets very scientific very quickly, and I did not study sports science nor medicine. I would also end up writing a book instead of a blog post. But for the most part, I don’t want to reveal too much and take away from the book Steve and Scott wrote, as they literally poured their decades of experience and learning into it — and I deeply respect that. However, I will explain my biggest learnings when it comes to training for Mountaineering and show the decisions made for creating my personal plan.

Second, this training plan is designed for myself. It does not make sense to follow it or adapt it, as I have a different body, different shape, different weaknesses, strengths, and most important, a different goal that I am training for. Why that is so important, is explained below. I also don’t want you to get hurt or injured and sue me. So please, just don’t.

I strongly recommend buying the book. I really can not emphasize enough how important it is to understand the training methods, what it addresses in your body, and how much you should train at what point in time. This will help you to get the desired results, prevent you from injury, learn about your body and identify your weaknesses and strengths and how to judge your current shape.


Welcome to Part 3!

This time it’s all about the base period! Yay!


What’s the base period again?


In the book, the training gets split up into 4 major phases. Those are:

  • Transition Period
  • Base Period
  • Specific Period
  • Taper Period

Now, the base period is probably the most important one. This is where your training volume increases more over the weeks, but the intensity stays kind of medium for the most part. It is wise to implement dedicated strength training depending on your goal. I am also planning on 8 weeks for the base period. Steve compares it to a bank account. The volume and kind of training you do in the base period basically builds up a bank of fitness, which means a good overall endurance capability, good strength and good technique. From that fitness base, you will shape and extend your performance in the next period.

Well, what’s happening during the base period?

Actually, it’s not that different to the transition period. Especially in the beginning. I am currently at the end of my base period. It get’s more interesting in the middle part.

  • In the first week, I increased my overall volume by +10%. That’s it.
  • In the second week, I increased the volume by another +15%.
  • Third week, +15%.
  • The fourth week is important. I reduced my volume by -25% to -35%. I did this for my body to adapt (supercompensation) and let the gains happen.
    There was more stress and more loads in the training, so take it slow and let it settle in. Patience.
  • In the fifth week, I introduced additional exercises to my Church. My Church (I will do this religiously, never skipping it, no matter what. I always “have to go to church!” — that’s where the name comes from) now has some additional exercises like squats with weights, balancing planks, advanced core exercises, more climbing specific. Keep in mind, that the base period is where you build a base layer of fitness in the areas that are important to your goal. In the next period, I will focus more on strength exercises. But because of the fact that I slowly introduced those exercises already, I have a good general strength for when I enter the next period. I have a good form in it and so I can build much more performance in the specific period.
  • The sixth week has the same volume like the fourth week.
  • The seventh week pushes volume and load up by +25%. Yup.
  • The eighth, and final week of the base period decreases volume by -50%. Again, this is for the bodys’ adapting to happen and to be rested and fit for the specific period. ‘Cause that one kicks butt.


My base period


This is the base period I designed for myself. I am almost through it, so now I can fully explain it. My main goals for my base period are the following:

  • Steadily increase the volume of all exercises, slowly!
  • Add new, specific strength exercises tailored to my goals for Church.
  • Really stick to heart rate zones while running – this will build the future speed.
  • Try not to miss any workouts – this is the most important period.


Base Period

That Log!

This is something that will bring your training to the next level. (It’s all about efficiency again!)
You don’t only have a plan for every day and every exercise, but you should keep a log! Every day. Every detail. This is one of the most powerful tools when you are trying to train efficiently. Not only will you be able to see your progress, you can also identify possible plateaus (points where you don’t improve anymore or very slowly). This is very important as I did the mistake of sticking to the same exercise routine and wondering why I didn’t imporve anymore in the past. As soon as you see that happening, change your training and change your exercises! It means you have reached a high level in that exercise and you should focus more on weaknesses.
You can identify trends when you improve the most, and if you ever get injured, you know exactly how much training load and what type of exercise lead to it – so you can avoid getting hurt next time!
Now, you don’t have to be as German as me about logging every single detail. But the more detailed you are in logging, the more exact your data and learnings will be!
I also log all my repititions, especially in hangboarding and specific pullup exercises. I do that on paper in a little notebook. As I said before, upper body strength and finger strength is my weakness, so I really want to see when I improve the most at those target areas. Notice in the picture below – as soon as I had pain somewhere, I stopped immediately. Listen your body. I would rather miss one or two workouts than two weeks due to injury.

Base Period

 As a little bonus, I designed training log sheets that you can
download and use for your training!

You can download the sheet for logging your daily training here:
You can download the sheet for logging your weekly training here:





Change in exercises


I have also changed my exercises a little bit. You don’t always have to run for your long Zone 1 for example. If you hike a steep mountain for 2 hours, that’s totally fine! I absolutely love to implement bouldering outside as much as I can (hence the title picture). This helps me in many ways:

  • You celebrate small victories, seeing how much your power and endurance has improved.
  • I get used to being a little exposed on higher boulders – getting used to that will help mentally on the mountain!
  • If I can boulder a hard problem, it should be fun scrambling easy stuff – again mental training!
  • It’s super fun and at this time of the year I am alwayst alone so I can scream like a baby, fall off and nobody notices.


Base Period
Addressing those weaknesses. © Brienne Boortz Photo



Additional tips to help you with your base period


Get out there


If you are training for a trip or project, get out there. Spend time in the mountains, hike, run, even your workout can be done outside. Why? This will help you feel very comfortable outside, in the mountains, when your project happens. If you are always training in the gym, you will not feel that comfortabilty. It may not sound like much but it can make a big difference! It’s all about mental strength, more than physical! So when you feel like the mountains are your playground, this is where you have fun, push yourself and you enjoy it. How do you think you will feel after a full training cycle completed in your personal playground? Fuck Yeah! On the other hand, having trained only inside will make you anxious and nervous about getting out there and seing an unfamiliar place. Think about it.

Don’t Arnold it


This is the base period and it’s main goal is to acheive a general fitness. No need to pump the iron like Arni. You don’t have to kill yourself to improve! Consistency outplays intensity by faaar! I am only doing so many pushups until my arms get tired or I can’t hold the perfect form anymore. I started with 3 sets of 5 pushups. And that was hard. Yep. Now, I am doing 5 sets of 10 with an additional 12kg weight. The same goes for running. You will be surprised how slow you have to run to stay in heart rate Zone 1. It’s not much faster than walking! So good news: You don’t have to kill yourself, just be patient and do every exercise in the best form and in a controlled way.




A Big thank you to Brienne Boortz for the awesome photos!


Stay Updated!

[Part 4] will not be out next week – I still have to finish my specific period and I don’t want to write about it until I am through.
Don’t worry, as always there will be posts every Wednesday and on the weekend.